Review: Microsoft OCS 2007 Heightens Awareness

Microsoft Office

Behind it all lies Active Directory, which is the engine that fuels OCS's deep presence awareness reach. OCS takes the Active Directory information and extends to include phone, collaboration, video conferencing and whiteboarding.

Group objects as well as single users received all of the data propagated throughout Active Directory. With it, OCS can take advantage of any existing infrastructure within minutes. Administrators can add or create new users using the same process in Active Directory. Since setting up accounts is centralized, solution providers deploying OCS should see provisioning costs decrease, even with customers that have a wide variety of end points devices.

After installing OCS, administrators are going to notice that every major feature is encrypted by default. All of the OCS signaling is done using the transport layer security (TLS) protocol by default. The application is configured for using certificates.

The advantage of encryption is that remote users can immediately connect to a corporate environment and use all of the OCS communication tools without first having to establish a VPN connection. The encryption allows users to get the exact same experience inside and outside a network.

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In addition to PC-to-PC communication, OCS is VoIP-ready. Moreover, OCS works with many legacy PBX systems and to achieve some level of presence awareness with the legacy technology. OCS can integrate and even replace older, pre-existing voicemail systems.

Presence integration also has a manual component that needs end user input. By setting a presence to a "do not disturb mode," any instance messages and phone calls will automatically go right into an exchange mail box. Users are not disturbed but can also check to see what transpired during this period. Users can also override general rules and create exceptions, allowing some colleagues to interrupt them, regardless of presence status.

When integrated with Exchange, OCS users can receive asynchronous messages in spoken form and can interact with other features in Exchange. The VoIP integration will allow Microsoft Exchange partners offer Microsoft Office integration with OCS, along with VoIP services.

Nortel's integrated OCS phone system provides feedback to users trying to reach a caller. If a user is using the Nortel phone, OCS will receive a message that the user is busy.

OCS can also interact with Microsoft Office applications, allowing users to exchange detailed information on their whereabouts. For instance, whenever users look at emails in Outlook they can see the presence information of the senders. They can see if other users are available on the network or are able to talk. By simply getting presence information from Outlook, users are able jump right into voice conversations.

OCS is capable of managing connections with the types of devices and communication paths that users want to make available. What's more, OCS will make the right connection and reach users based on their active presence properties. Users have a lot of control over their communication by being able to redirect calls on the fly from any location.

While presence information comes embedded in Office tools, Office 2007 seems to have the best integration capabilities with OCS. For instance, users can easily identify the status of coworkers by looking at icons on Outlook 2007. The new Office 2007 ribbon has new features that allow users to IM or make direct calls.